Regaining Equality by Reaching Out Through The Screen (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of 3 of a mega-post. To read Part 1, click here.

Power is only exchanged through conflict. However, conflict has been sublimated, in domestic terms, in modern America. Those currently in power (essentially, the corporations and special interests whose money powers the politicians who run or fail to run the country) have long been engaged in a sort of silent, backdoor civil war against the rest of us.

There’s really no other way to describe everything the wealthy white establishment within the conservative movement in particular is doing, while in its death throes, to continuously dehumanize minorities and the lower classes in an ongoing attempt to maintain control over the economy and country no matter the cost. They worked for a long time to quietly warp the narrative of what it means to be American, such that they could grow richer and more influential as we absorbed everything through a one-way screen (the television) and ended up simply “missing” what was happening. Once the recession started waking people up, these same manipulative special interests started screaming (or saw to it that their “constituents,” true believers in their messaging, started screaming). They started painting other Americans as enemies.

No, our current civil war has not been waged with weaponry. It has only resulted in actual violence in cases when citizens snap and spasmodically act out in tragic explosions of long-simmering emotional pain, which is itself arguably caused by our failure to treat each other not as ends but fellow humans. No, this war has been waged through suppression, carried out through the propagandizing, via The Screen, of an emotionally Darwinist narrative that depicts America as a place that was built by rugged individualism and unfettered free-market capitalism. All you have to do is read three history books that aren’t written by right wing conformists to realize that this simply isn’t the truth.

While we sit in front of The Screen, battles in this war are decided by lawyers and lawmakers. Plans are laid with the (sometimes even unwitting) goal of bleeding out the spirit and the animus of the average American man or woman in small, incremental steps. Whereas America as we know it was actually built by the partnership between wealthy capitalists and an industrious working class that became a robust and energetic middle class, now it is mostly a place where the rest prop up those at the top, even as they take more and more from us because they need and must retain their power. So now, absent any experience making things or solving problems, because many of them were born fortunate and don’t know how to work or to be creative, they attack the future under the guise of protecting the past.

A man cornered and attacked cries out and fights back. But a man prompted to wait, by the lack of a discernable oncoming blow, even as the air around him is increasingly poisoned by the second, idles almost willingly when faced with essentially the same end result. And who can blame him, when his environment is full of so many invisible threats that are impossible to track and avoid all at once? Except that, in the second case, such a man is robbed of the benefit of the assistance from his fellow man that would surely come in the first, as each eventually realizes that they are under similar assault.

What I’m suggesting is that The Screen has become the corner that we’re backed into. The old guard, exemplified by those in control of certain too-big-and-too-greedy corporations, is the attacker.

So what do we do?

Well, we talk about this shit, first and foremost.

I’m neither an economist or a political scientist, and I acknowledge and understand that even if this combined missive spreads like Bieberfire (it won’t), and we all collectively look up and whisper “no” – that things won’t change over night. But what influence we have, which we do not exercise enough en masse, is our bargaining power as consumers.

As trivial as some of them may seem on the surface, I’ve delighted in recent socially networked movements against backwards or exploitive corporate policies in recent months (the furor and flight over Instagram’s change in their TOS is a recent example). However trivial in comparison to what we should also be doing (increasing our active participation in combating social injustice on the ground) this sort of viral participation represents an easy and tangible way to band together and enact change. Companies can’t ignore shocks to the bottom line, which is something they used to worry about predominantly on our terms, not just the terms of wealthy shareholders. If our relationship with our corporations are going to swing back towards balance, this needs to become the norm once again.

Regaining Equality by Reaching Out Through The Screen (Part 1)

Although I haven’t announced it, my goal for this site is to publish at least two posts per week. Most of the time, this will probably result in one lengthier post appearing earlier in the week, and What I Liked This Week (WILTW) rounding it off during the weekend. That’s pretty much all I’m going to be able to manage, in between the day job and The Filmmaking.

This week, however, you’re getting four posts. Or, more appropriately, one mega-post split into three parts, and then your weekly WILTW. I guess there just was a surplus of fury and romance this time around. Probably this happened because the gun control debate has me riled (the children who died last month are still dead, and still shouldn’t be dead, and more than a couple of people are standing in the way of desperately needed reforms) but also I’m pretty happy on a personal level these days.

Anyway, without further delay, here’s Part 1 of Regaining Equality by Reaching Out Through The Screen. I will publish Part 2 tomorrow, and Part 3 on Friday. As always, I encourage readers to respond via Twitter or Facebook, and please definitely share anything that you like.

Thanks for reading.

It should go without saying that our country and the globe are both big places, at least in comparison with the lens through which we view and experience them: our personal point of view.

But as a reader pointed out to me in response to my post about Sandy Hook, our personal point of view, oftentimes these days, is increasingly aimed at a screen. A computer. A television. A phone that ceased to be a phone a long time ago.

Her (paraphrased) words: “I’m not sure a world in which we’re so much ‘more connected’ to each other helps anything – I think it leaves us less humanly connected that ever before.” In addition to writing this, she smartly (and importantly, in my opinion) pointed out the irony inherent in the fact that she was delivering her opinion via Facebook. That’s an important detail, given where I’m about to go with this discussion.

Stick with me. This is a long one.

This issue of connectedness vs. connection, for me, is vastly interesting. Much has already been said about it, and the conversation continues, so I’m only going to focus on one particular problem I have with the way many of us use technology.

The aforementioned reader is also particularly worried about the dangers facing members of coming generations who are born into a society where so many of us choose The Screen over, say, a face. I share this concern, though I think the fact that she and I are both worrying about it indicates an awareness on the part of our generation that this is an important issue that needs to be dealt with on an individual and/or family level. One that, hopefully, at the end of the day, won’t differ too much from similar debates certain members of the boomer generation had about us, in regards to video games and computers, and which their parents before them had about television. It ends up, for me, a matter of vigilance on the part of the family as well as on a social level. I’m not as worried about it as I used to be, because I believe that such concerns, while legitimate, stem more from a need to catch ourselves up to accelerating technologies and technologically-based social networking systems than anything else. Though this doesn’t mean we don’t have work to do tracing our compulsions towards these technologies and sourcing out our subsequent responsibility to use them in a healthy and/or productive way.

This is the real imperative facing our generation and future generations: parsing why we feel compelled towards The Screen, in the particularly clumsy interactive ways in which we are lately compelled towards it in its evolving forms (phones, tablets, smart TVs). Answers as to what we should embrace, what we should worry about, how to respond as our lives continue to depend on computers and networks and information technology, are likely to follow.

I would argue that it all begins with understanding and acknowledging that our relationship with The Screen is as emotional as our relationship with the world itself, as glimpsed from our own point of view. Further, taking this statement at face value,  I believe we have some waking up to do, when it comes to realizing the extent to which the gatekeepers of The Screen have traditionally leveraged the influence they enjoy as programmers of its messaging to take advantage of this relationship.

If you can’t come with me on that, stop here and go catch up on Mad Men.

Again, our country and the globe represent a vast, interconnected system. This is true on both a natural level (the Earth as an organism) and a manmade level (society as a network of interdependent beings working together, if not in unison, to survive).

In contemporary terms, with rare exception, we enter into this system incrementally, by proxy at first, as we are raised (or flung) into adulthood.

In America, in particular, we begin to fully belong to the world, in prevailing terms, when we enter the workplace and begin purchasing and working our way through whatever corner of it ends up in front of our individual lens, either by choice (if we are “lucky,” and increasingly fewer of us are lucky, because the system is rigged in favor of the privileged) or necessity. These are the facts of American life. You grow up, it’s difficult and strange, and then eventually you settle into some place or another, do one thing or another, and at some point it all bleeds together and the difficulty and the strangeness evaporate except at times of emotional upheaval (birth, death, other rites of passage). Perhaps you shuffle things around now and then, in terms of where you live and what you do, but in the end we’re all just making money and handing over money and in between we keep ourselves busy. Increasingly, we keep ourselves ever-busy, on an individual level, in front of some permutation of The Screen.

Except there are a few key differences between The Screen as it was and The Screen as it is now. First, the television has lost its status as the primary target of the individual lens. Even those in our populations who are older are finally being forced by the move towards electronic publishing and recordkeeping to form some semblance of computer literacy. Additionally, there are the phones and, now, the tablets. The Screen has multiplied. Under our “control” it’s various forms coexist and interact. It is now “normal” for many people to engage with a computer or phone or tablet while watching TV.

It is not the concern of this post to judge questionable examples of such behavior, per se. There are clear, easy-to-see repercussions, on an individual and a societal level, to dividing our attention so completely for an extended period of time. Also, I am guilty of pushing my face into The Screen a little too often, so I can’t judge. However, there is a fine line between withholding judgment and the subsequent failure, in the place of judgment, to take a realistic perspective on the repercussions of our actions.

Which all a very long way of saying that we are collectively, and on average, far too passive in our use of technology.

To borrow some metaphors from my vocation: we are not a fixed lens. Our perspective can be likened to a fixed lens – which has only one point of view, that can be played with to varying degrees but which is unable to ever see everything on its own, even when focused on a dynamic and engrossing subject – but we should never be so self-restrictive or so presumptuous to assume that one point of view is capable of taking in the whole world.

Only in varying our perspective, switching out lenses, as it were, and experimenting with different views and different combinations of views, are we able to responsibly say that we have looked at something. Only then does it become easy to remember that The Screen is only that. A microcosm of a particular worldview. A picture of a thing that, however simple or complex it may be, or however steeped in the abstract of the imagination, has a real world equivalent which, whether we acknowledge or not, exists in relation to us in way that is neither tactile nor energetic.

Even more crucially, a face on a screen is not a face. It is a representation of a person on the other side who, despite any artifice thrown in the way of each of you, exists in reality in another place, made of organic stuff and vibrating with feelings.

Our initial relationship with The Screen was a passive one. It was crude, by today’s technological standards. The television blasted its messaging at you, and you could only respond insofar as you were able in the real world: by communing with those in your direct vicinity, or with your wallet as advertisements fought over each other for the privilege of your dollar. And prior to YouTube, a select few among us enjoyed the privilege of being able to clumsily and incompletely communicate within the screen, participants in the messaging conducted through subsequent programming.

This relationship has clearly changed, now that we have the internet and now that we carry it in our pocket wherever we go. Especially in the last several years, with the rise of social networks, the narrative of The Screen has begun to more closely align with the narrative of life. The faces that appear to us from the other side are increasingly the faces not of traditional messengers but rather our friends, our loved ones, perhaps even our enemies instead.

This is still all very new. And so, we worry. All of us. On the ground, people like me and you, we worry that we spend too much time on too many screens – which we’ve already discussed as a legitimate but ultimately inconsequential concern. We worry while experts and academics and reporters squabble amongst themselves about similar concerns, about the moral and social repercussions of our changing habits, all of which represents a debate made more on their own behalf than ours. They aren’t to be blamed. The one-way narratives they are used to continue to either evolve or expire, leaving whole swaths of them behind while a few of the smarter ones abandon themselves to the vagaries and the chaos of the new narrative. And as we all worry, those in the towers that loom over our cities (our literal overlords), scramble to adjust the narratives and the delivery systems they have long controlled, such that they may maintain or reinforce the old, crumbling relationship between us and them.

All our fears are justified. Make no mistake: The Screen, by virtue of our increasingly symbiotic relationship with it, is the personification of control. Say what you will about that, argue against it if you’d like (just don’t ask me to listen to you), but the fact of the matter is that we are, at least on structural terms, on the precipice of a future many of us have long feared. The Screen is everywhere; we can’t go back.

We shouldn’t want to go back. Especially those of us whose lives have been dictated by those traditionally in control of the The Screen and the message (most of us), we shouldn’t want to go back. Because as it stands right now, we know more about how to win control of The Screen than they do, and we are better positioned than ever to regain some of the dignity that the average American has lost over the past several decades. 

The truth is written in the mangled façade of what we still call Facebook, which rose to prominence once, in part, because its interface recalled an Apple-like regard for beauty, in comparison to the visual and architectural mess than was MySpace. The fact that the visuals of Facebook have turned into a conglomeration of icons, links, and flashing lights – whereas it used to look like a communication hub – tells us all we need to know about where the site is headed and/or where we’re letting it lead us.

Facebook is becoming just another business hub. Especially since it’s IPO, which has unsurprisingly hastened the rate of the reverse exponentially, the site is in a state of regress. What began as a means of connectedness now begs for and demands your connectivity. The push to make Facebook something more valuable than what it is – and, just so we’re clear, I believe Facebook has value and can co-exist as a business and as a historical touchstone of the social networking movement – has perverted its legacy as a primary virtual epicenter for the movement away from the traditional one-way narrative of The Screen and towards a more widespread and all-encompassing visualization of the sort of cultural exchange of information, ideas and emotions that has been taking place on the internet since its infancy as a popular destination.

Do you know why this is happening to Facebook? It’s because the monologue of The Screen has become a dialogue, and those who have historically controlled the messaging don’t want this.  Since it’s happening anyway, you can be sure that those in power will do their damnedest to seize one side of the conversation fully and not let go. That is what has worked for them in the past. That is why they bought the news.

Make no mistake: the war for your divided attention – for frequent access to your many screens – is on. Most of those in power don’t really know what they’re doing, because they’re old and because they’re incapable of knowing what it’s like to need The Screen as we need it. But they’re not completely stupid, they have resources, and they have time. Especially while we idle, continuing to devote more of our waking hours and our energy on trivialities than on improving our lives and the world, they have the time.

And why shouldn’t we idle? It fits the traditional narrative structure of life, as we experienced it growing up in front of our televisions. We can’t be blamed any more than we can be forgiven – and I say that because at the end of the day, regardless of causality and of the difficulties ahead of us, it’s our responsibility to seize control of our share of the dialogue ourselves.

There is no evil in business. Companies that make The Screen and fill it with imagery and provide us with the tools of communicating with one another and sharing information – as well similarly connected/invested corporate powers – they can’t be completely blamed for wanting their share of control. Evil comes from people. On the side of such organizations, they are evil who leverage their control of The Screen against humanity, perverting truth by doubling-down on the insistence that the limited view of a one-way narrative is legitimate and righteous. On the side of the people, we are evil who neglect to question these practices and damn their practitioners by failing to take our attention and our wallets somewhere else.

Only in understanding our true relationship with the new normal of communications technology, in acknowledging what it means about us and what it means for us going forward, can we begin to regain ownership of our side of the narrative. I believe this process, not new laws, or progressive policies, or more new technologies, will help us find our way back to true individual empowerment and true collaborative democracy.

But we have to want it. And it’s infinitely easier said than done.

What I Liked This Week: 1/12/13

Before I get on to What I Liked This Week — a quick thank you to everyone reading. Special thanks to everyone who provided feedback and extra special thanks to those who shared links. Please add yourselves to the end of this week’s list. Because I like you. Not like that. I’m a married man! Don’t be creepy!

Nah. Be creepy. In your own head, though. We’re all creeps in there anyway, and if we did a better job of accepting that and maybe even talking about it a little, the world would have fewer problems. Ah, well. We all float on.

There’s one thing that I loved this week, which gets it’s own mini-post. Bullet list of a few other things after that.

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline. I bought this book for my gamer brother after hearing from a friend that it was a great read and a great read for people who like pop culture and video games. Since I also like both these things, even if I don’t dive into them as often as I used to or would like, I also bought a copy for myself. And I’m very glad I did. Ready Player One has been out a while and has sold a bunch of copies, but anyone who hasn’t checked it out should do so.

On the surface, the story seems like an esoteric trip for…people who like pop culture (particularly 80s pop culture!) and video games, comics, sci-fi, etc. I don’t know how many ladies and gents belonging to that category are left out there who haven’t read the book, but I’m including it here because I enjoyed it immensely and found it to be about much more than the sum of these broadest-of-its-thematic parts. I think people of lesser geekiness than I could get a lot out of it as well.

In short, in the tradition of all great sci-fi works, Ready Player One is a warning about where we might be headed as a society, what this may mean for us on an individual level, and what we may have to do on both terms to deliver us from such a frightening vision of the future. Particularly, it’s about how and why we choose to escape reality and also, sometimes, insulate ourselves from it and those around us. It’s also about the importance of questioning, challenging, and hopefully overcoming the worst and most damagingly excessive of these impulses.

Ready Player One spoke to me because I’ve done my own wrestling with escape and distractedness and loneliness, and I also think it’s a relevant entry into the thankfully growing discussion of how we might healthily coexist with our evolving technological systems.

Look out for a long post next week in which I explore my own ideas about this issue. Much of what I’ve been thinking about was shaken loose after reading Ready Player One, which, by the way, I accomplished mostly in the span of eight hours.

Reading a great book is infinitely better than suffering through insomnia.

Other things I liked this week:

  • This report, indicating that AIG, the insurance giant that the US government bailed out at the onset of the recession, in order to keep the economy from fully crashing, is considering suing the government on behalf of its shareholders, some of whom feel as if they were denied millions of dollars due to the “unfair” terms of the bailout. I don’t actually like this. I think it’s as contemptible as it is hilarious. I don’t actually think it’s hilarious. It reminds me how far away we are from regaining equality in our society — if we ever had it.
  • Jon Stewart chiming in on the inability of the GOP-led House to speedily pass adequate legislation providing aid to victims of hurricane Sandy. Which I touched upon in my post about Sandy Hook and America’s Sickness.
  • This footage of a giant squid. Because…giant fucking squid!

Have a good rest of the weekend. Don’t forget to hit me up on The Twitter (@MichaelDiBiasio).

Sandy Hook And America’s Sickness

My first reaction to Sandy Hook wasn’t shock, to be honest. I’ll leave the task of hypothesizing as to why I wasn’t shocked, to the words that follow. But, no, I just cried. On and off for days. I didn’t even get angry – at least not in the ways I know how to get angry.

When I did get angry, however, at the facts and nature of what, with all apologies to the families involved, is and should remain a national loss – something strange happened. There’s no way for me to completely contextualize the causality between the tragedy and my eventual feelings about it – not without making this too much about me (in the wrong way) – so I’ll just say it.

Shortly after Sandy Hook, I decided for the first time that I wanted to be a father someday.

I work hard to be a good person. My wife does the same. We’ve both been through some shit. More shit than some, less shit than many others. We’ve put ourselves and each other through shit. We’ll fuck up more shit today and tomorrow.

But we’re good people. We care, and we struggle – and we fight. I guess, after turning over my emotions in regard to Sandy Hook as best I could, that’s where I landed – in a place where I felt the most appropriate reaction was to acknowledge the goodness in myself, which I probably too often forget is a reflection of the good that still exists in the world, and decide for myself what I was going to do to make sure it survives. If the world’s going to get better (it’s still pretty shitty in many spots) more good people are going to have to start doing more good things.

I’m not having a kid anytime soon. But neither can I conscientiously hold on to the reasons why I was, very recently, very afraid to commit to the idea. Apart from the reasons that can be inferred from what I’ve said already, the rest of my rationale is my own. But I believe the impetus, to respond to the sadness of such a tragic event as Sandy Hook with not only sadness and anger, but love and defiance…is something worth exploring.

Much has been made of the official comments made by the National Rifle Associate (NRA) in the wake of Sandy Hook. I’m not going to dignify what was specifically said with a response. However, I will say that I find it odd that less has been made of the days-long silence of the NRA (and the similar silence of a large percentage of our population) in the wake of the shootings. Say what you will of the appropriateness or necessity of discussing topics like gun control and mental health in the immediate aftermath of the event itself, but the fact that the NRA remained sinfully silent for such a long stretch – when the right thing to do would have been to condemn the violence and lament the tragic abuse of firearms at Sandy Hook, regardless of any impact on the overall agenda of the organization – and the lack of a widespread dialogue condemning this conscious decision to do or say nothing, to me speaks loudly of where we are as a culture.

We simply can’t talk about these things.

I get that it’s hard. Little seems harder, in the wake of such a painful example of societal dysfunction, than discussing the fact that children were murdered, and that, beyond matters of faith or fate, there are several reasons and possibilities as to why. But if we don’t talk about these things when something so completely horrific happens – when do we talk? And I mean really talk.  Further, when do we act?

Children are dead. Why haven’t assault weapons been banned already? Why did the uproar die down so quickly? Why, in 2013, isn’t mental health more of a national concern?

Why did it take an outburst of outrage, from the populace as well as local New York and New Jersey politicians, for the Speaker of the House of Representatives to schedule a vote to pass part of a Senate-approved bill to get aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy?

Have we become so dispassionate – that these forms of meandering and inaction are acceptable to us?

Do you know what I did to help victims of Sandy? Not enough, compared to some of my friends and neighbors. But what I did do, I did quickly and to the best of my ability. I donated what money I could to relief organizations. When a friend from Staten Island posted “live from the scene” on Facebook, while he was helping neighbors sift through the remnants of their homes, and said that they had plenty of food and clothing for the time being, but needed shovels and gloves and facemasks –went out and charged what I could find from that list to my credit card, and delivered it to a neighborhood crew who was making daily deliveries to the hardest-hit places in the city. When that crew said that food was needed in a certain area, I packed a bunch of lunches and dropped them off the next morning.

Is that a humblebrag? Maybe. Don’t care. It’s also an example of fucking helping people who need it. Of doing something, to try to help bring the world back into balance after some bad shit goes down.

I’d argue we could all do plenty, on a normal day, to live a more balanced life as a member of society. As it stands, we in America – supposed land of the free – cling to a guarded, fractured, selfish, ghostly existence, in human terms. Most of them times, when we help, we do so remotely – with money, by clicking, sharing. I implicate myself in this behavior as well, and don’t completely fault us all, given where we’re at this crossroads in our history, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be asking questions. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be struggling a bit to figure out what exactly is going on out there, within people, that allows us to remain so callously self-interested and distant in the presence of a crumbling social compact that is failing so many of our citizens – including our children.

The issue here, for me, is the closed gap between how we live and how our lives are run, in terms of humanity and justice. It has become woefully apparent, in the age of information, that many of the terms by which we live out our daily lives are controlled and dictated by the networks of power and of powerful people who, at this point, are infinitely more concerned with assuring their continued dominance than with the good of the people, the planet, and even themselves. They’d sooner turn a blind eye as it all bleeds out than be cut off from the money, influence, and especially the illusions, that keep them safely separate from the travails of life on the ground as an otherwise “average” American.

I grew up in a middle class community of workers and entrepreneurs. I received a pretty decent public school education. I then spent my undergraduate years among a population that was mostly white and wealthy (and diversified occasionally by “minorities” playing by the same horrible rules as the old guard) and whose students and alumni have long been associated with “the elite.” Over the last several years, I’ve lived the unglamorous life of the artist-working-a-day-job-to-make-ends-meet. The point is that I’ve skipped around between social classes. And I’m telling you, there’s not a whole lot of differences between anyone, in any environment, when you start digging as deep as you have to dig to get at the reasons why it’s “normal” in our country for the majority of the population to sit idly as the leaders of the day – that we elected and/or keep in power – spend more time haggling over taxes on the rich than they do helping to avert tragedies and/or speedily address the destruction left in their wake.

I’m sure I’ll get around to discussing politics and class in more detail at a later date. My belief, however, is that if you take away all the supposed differences between the majority of the privileged class and the rest of us – the money they have, the material, situational, geographical advantages they enjoy – all you’re left with are: people. People like you and me. Maybe that sounds obvious, or trite, but do we really spend enough time acknowledging this to ourselves every day?

Since September 11th, people in America tend to also be scared people. Worried people. Despite all claims to the contrary, and whether we admit it or not, we’re also a fundamentally godless people. Regardless of whether you agree, with all that stripped away – and I don’t understand how it can’t be momentarily stripped away at times of great tragedy – still we’re incapable of looking at a day stained by the blood of children as a day of reckoning.

The clamor for new laws and better and fuller access to mental health services was and is right and just. But we won’t truly start getting better, won’t be fully able to honestly say we did about as much as we could to prevent tragedies like Sandy Hook from recurring, if we don’t admit that something corrupt has poisoned our souls.

Following the lead of our politicians and leaders, and the media empires they control, we mostly just ignore this unfortunate truth. We avoid it.

Well, I’m sick of it. More than that, I’m sick of the fact that we don’t talk honestly about these issues in a widespread way.

I’m sick of the inaction and the squabbling of our leaders and our population. Of our lack of courage and compassion. I’m sick of the outdated, out of touch moralities that we continue to cling to as our culture cannibalizes itself on every level. I’m sick of ignoring the smell of death that has crept into our daily lives.

If I ever have a child, he or she is going to know love. To me that means teaching my future children that life’s contradiction – that we are all complex, unique souls, fundamentally linked by our humanity – renders us ultimately the same.

When children die, we all die. When we fail to ask why, once they are dead, we fail them all over again, and further endanger a world already left less bright by their absence.

What I Liked This Week: 1/5/13

Happy Saturday, everyboddy. Working on a lengthier post that I’ll publish soon, but in the meantime here’s a short list of what I liked this week.

The plan is to do this once a week, unless I end up hating everything on a given week, which is possible but I am trying to put that darkness in the past and/or into my scripts. We hope instead for sunshine and cheeseburgers.

So. What I (especially) liked this week.

  • This article, by Charles Eisenstein, about why “Everything We Tell Ourselves About America and the World is Wrong.” It’s compassionately written, non-confrontational, and not as cynical as it perhaps has a right to be. I may be projecting that last point. Either way, please read it.
  • This short film, MAN, by UK artist Steve Cutts, which is fantastic and only three minutes long so I am not going to describe it. Just watch it. Smart, (definitely) cynical, hilarious — pointed.
  • This “clip” from an ep of Inside the Actors Studio, wherein Dave Chappelle opens up about why he walked away from his successful show, what he was going through at the time, and his opinions on celebrity culture and the entertainment industry. I haven’t watched the whole interview but am going to go back and do so because I’ve always admired what Chappelle did and am interested in learning more about him as a person.
  • This episode of WTF with Marc Maron, where Marc interviews Michael Keaton. I grew up watching and rewatching Tim Burton’s Batman on VHS at my grandmother’s house, and have seen many if not most of Keaton’s movies. I have always been a big fan of his charisma and had been missing him on screen until he started showing up again lately. Also a very big fan of Maron and his show, which was a huge help to me this year as I began the work of re-engaging with my life (on a personal and creative level) after a few too many years spent chasing the darkness (in myself and on the page). Hint: you can’t chase the darkness — it’s unending. That’s why they call it darkness.

Found most of these through The Twitter. The article was posted by Ted Hope, Executive Director of The San Francisco Film Society. MAN was posted by Short of The Week, a site I started following recently that does some great work curating short films from solid talent. I can’t remember who posted the Chappelle clip but will do a better job about logging this sort of info moving forward.

Have a good weekend, people. Hit me up anytime at my own Twitter page.

Welcome. And, why.

Welcome to The Furious Romantic Returns, the blog of Michael DiBiasio. For answers as to what (it all means) and who (is Michael DiBiasio), please visit the What? And, Who? page.

In terms of the reasons why I (Michael DiBiasio) created this blog/site/tumblr/wahdever, after a few other, similar endeavors have come and gone, and despite the fact that I’ve already got more than enough work to do with my film career, and so on and so dork…well…there are a few central reasons.

I frequently have a lot to say. I can’t (and shouldn’t) always work all of this into my screenplays, which — future days of the present enterprise excepted — represents 98% of my writing. But the day-to-day burn of trying to make it as a screenwriter and an indie filmmaker leaves little time and money for talking current events or philosophy at the bar (where I almost always would rather be, when not in front of my laptop), and other such venues. Hence, a more on-demand solution to the on-demand demands of both myself and the demanding generation of which I am part.

Regardless of whether I am right, I feel like some of what I have to say needs to be said: mostly because I haven’t found too many others saying it — at least not as loudly or as often as I would like. Only time will tell, I suppose, whether this means I am crazy or…crazy-with-company.

Attempting to whittle that all down, and also to simpliclarify — most days, for me, are filled with at least a little bit of anger and/or suffering. Partially this is the way I’m built. I am an emotional lightning rod. This sometimes makes it easy for me to be a decent writer. Most of the time it makes it difficult for me to, for instance, walk around New York City — knowing what I know and seeing what I see and feeling what we all feel but don’t always acknowledge — without getting smacked alternately by anger or depression, in the face of the everyday suffering and acquiescence of the average downtrodden American. Because so many of of us are more downtrodden than we realize or admit, because…well…

More on this later. But suffice it to say that I am romantic for a reason (put your phone away and watch a god damn sunset — or a rainstorm, if that’s your cheese) and angry for many reasons (social injustice is rampant, here in America and the world over, and it’s time we woke up and took some responsibility for the mess). Rather than resort to either willful ignorance or, alternately, cynical snark, like so many other representatives of my generation, I decided to take my chances and scream occasionally into the void.

Feel free to join. It’ll work out better for all of us if you do.

Thanks for reading, come back soon, and hit me up anytime on here or on Twitter if you have anything to add.

– Michael